Jerome Betts



Let us pause to consider Ogden Nash’s piece which
begins ‘Let us pause to consider the English’;
Let us pause to consider whether it makes sound
American sense, or just jinglish.
I am not certain when his indictment was indited,
While I am quite sure it leaves me not altogether
totally satisfied and delighted.
This is nothing to do with the fact that he accuses
us of such peccadilloes as pride and snobbery—
An occasional squirt of vinegar being a good
antidote to the kind of Anglophilia that grows
insidiously syrupy and slobbery—
But because the word ‘English’ runs like a refrain
through his derogatory and derisive reflections,
Though they all seem to refer to the over-exposed
upper-class or Downton Abbeyish sections.
My admiration for his works is so great I would
hesitate to call him twittish,
Yet I can only conclude he must have been
confusing us with those awful British.

The Great Wessex Thrush Question

(With thanks to M. B.)  

All hail one famous thrush, called ‘darkling,’
Among the Dorset bines,
A scene of sombre hue, yet sparkling
In Thomas H.’s lines  …

Hold on! I shall not join the chorus
Of praise, until I know
If it was Turdus viscivorus
Which stole that wintry show.

Or, not a mistle, no, a song-thrush,
R. Browning’s wise old bird,
T. philomelos? Right or wrong thrush?
No answer to be heard?

I am, I do not mind confessing,
Concerned by this loose end,
A point of substance, worth addressing:
What kind did he intend?

Tim Dee! Eureka! I’m elated!
Your Notes* are best, bar none.
The throstle’s case is quite deflated,
The storm-cock is the one!

*The Poetry of Birds, ed. Simon Armitage and Tim Dee
Penguin Books (2011) Notes, p. 319.

Jerome Betts lives in Devon, England. His verse has appeared in a wide variety of British magazines and anthologies as well as UK, European, and North American web venues such as Amsterdam Quarterly, Angle, Light, The Asses of Parnassus, The New Verse News, Per Contra, The Rotary Dial, and Snakeskin. He now edits Lighten Up Online in succession to Martin Parker, its founder.